Uganda Lesbian Forum
“Collective Love, care and healing”
Two years and a pandemic in the waiting, UGALEF 2021 was finally happening. The hugs and screams from sisters who had not seen each other in two years said more than any words would.
The second UGALEF was held from 2nd-5th December 2021. It brought together over 60 LBQ womxn from all around the country. The first after the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic that left many overwhelmed with anxiety and grief, UGALEF 2021 was convened around themes of wellbeing and collective care. It was a space where LBQ womxn, activists, leaders co-created an innovative space for soul restoration, healing, wellbeing for themselves. ‘’for so long we have been waiting, last year was a mess, I needed change. But today… I see change, laughter, love and life…’’
‘Sister, it has been a minute!’.
The forum allowed LBQ womxn, activists and leaders to politicize how they treat themselves, how they treat each other, how they move through, manage and resolve conflict and how to pick themselves up in the pandemics and uncertain times. This was vital in light of the findings of FARUG’s flagship research report that revealed the hardships that Ugandan LBQ womxn faced daily. It was against this backdrop that UGALEF was convened, to give LBQ womxn rest from their many struggles, to show them the importance of wellness and ultimately to teach them how to build a vibrant community. The second UGALEF forum is a modest attempt at capturing the energy-filled key moments, reflections, outcomes of the best UGALEF convening yet
A TRIP DOWN THE MEMORY LINE
History reminds us of where we have come from and where we are yet to go. Gloria Mutyaba, programmes manager FARUG and Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, the Executive Director of FARUG shared the historical journey of UGALEF. This was particularly important for those attending UGALEF for the first time. Those who had attended the previous forum were also invited to share their key moments with the plenary.
WEAVING INTO COLLECTIVE UGALEF
Art as A Tool of Movement Building
eaving is a collective activity that brings participants together, share their pain and advice each other on the skills brought on board from the materials they would create beautiful items, from hair braiding, knitting, making beaded waist and ankle art in a collective. The goal of this weaving activity was to help participants get comfortable with learning and teaching one another. Building a movement requires sisterhood partnership and trust.
YOGA AT LAST
What better way to bring a truly refreshing day to a close than a group session of yoga to unwind and relax? Yoga session to relax the participants to reflect, be mindful and calm their minds, as well as learn new skills of self-grounding.
HEALING AND BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH STORYTELLING
Healing and building community through storytelling is a special way of communicating. It is also an impactful way to connect, release and heal. It is through narratives that one is passionate to tell because they serve a real purpose, that a story will have a lasting impact on its audience. The second day of UGALEF was purely dedicated to the sharing and telling of stories as a means to looking after one’s wellbeing and wellness. As people living on the farthest end of the unwanted, despised, feared side of the spectrum, queer people have tales that will shock, delight, horrify, cry, smile and make you sad all at once. The breadth of human experiences in the room was awe-inspiring, to say the least. The story telling conversations were interwoven with exercises and activities that helped participants to appreciate different aspects of wellness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, even illness becomes wellness.
Elizabeth Kemigisha, FIDA Uganda; I struggled to talk about self-care without feeling selfish
Noah Mirembe, Taala Foundation, wellness did not come automatically. I pondered on a number of issues to address and eventually settled on mental health.
Maria(WERO)’s story. I took in at least fifteen fellow sex workers who like me, had nowhere else to go and were in desperate need of food and shelter.
Monalisa Akintole, TEU; Things were also a notch tougher because lockdowns meant trans people could not access hormonal medication or therapy due to the closure of borders.
Queer Futurism: Using Art to Imagine New Forms of Building Community.
Queer futurism is inspired by Afro-futurism, which is the use of art and literature to arrive at positive re-interpretations of the horrific past and grueling present experiences of LBQ womxn so that they can re-imagine and craft a better future. Queer futurism envisions a future in which institutions do not silence and oppress. Day Three of the forum was dedicated to exploring emerging ideas on wellness at work, building community and an afternoon full of speed dates with some incredible feminist sisters.
Speed date with some of the incredible feminists
UGALEF after dark - Pleasure and Wellness
The final session of the forum was an evening of candid conversations on sex, relationships and pleasure Such a popular topic, everyone had something to say. From drawing distinctions between sex work and prostitution to sexual hygiene, understanding the female anatomy, there were deep insights shared on the importance of pleasure as a form of wellness. The conversation and merry making continued on well through the night.
HERE IN SOLIDARITY
Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, an active ally of the queer community made a solidarity appearance at the forum
Kasha Nabagesera, appreciated all the partners whose support and expertise made UGALEF 2021 a roaring success. She applauded the participants for their full participation and implored them adopt community building attitudes anchored on solidarity, sharing, wellness, movement building and sisterhood. Finally, the lead facilitator, Penelope Ssanyu brought the forum to a close by inviting the participants to show off their finished art pieces. Within that euphoric atmosphere of accomplishment, excitement and nostalgia she shared some final food for thoughts on building community, such as the need to lose our fear of teaching and learning from each other.
Imagine a world where I can be queer and free from the fear of stigma. A world where I can dance in the light-not in the shadows. A world where my queerness is celebrated not castigated. That world is possible and it is up to me for it to be.